Álex Palou looked like a sitting duck. The IndyCar Series world had been shocked when Chip Ganassi Racing hired Palou after the little-known Spaniard’s nondescript rookie season in 2020. Yet two weeks after turning 24, Palou qualified third during the season-opening Grand Prix of Alabama and controlled the race with a masterful blend of speed and fuel conversation strategy.
Now, with the laps ticking down at Barber Motorsports Park, Palou was being hounded by past IndyCar champ Will Power, who still had plenty of push-to-pass boost in the bank, and right behind Power was six-time champ Scott Dixon. Further complicating matters, Palou was being held up by slower drivers who were determined to remain on the lead lap.
Inside the cockpit, Palou’s heart rate spiked. “Even if you are P1 on the last lap, there are so many things that can happen to ruin your race,” he says. “I was convinced that we were doing a good job, but until the chequered flag was down, I never believed that we were going to win that race.”